English Morphology By Laurie Bauer

Morphology is concerned with the relationship between the form of a word and its meaning. For example, if we consider the words manage, manages, managed, managing, management, manager, and managerial we find that there is a common core of meaning corresponding to the meaning of manage, and if we consider the words managing, obliging, refusing, seeking, and teaching, there is also a common element of meaning (even if it may be quite difficult to specify that meaning precisely) that is reflected in the recurrent -ing.

Etymologically, the term morphology seems to indicate the study of forms, though it can be seen from the preceding that form alone does not provide an object of study within morphology. Morphologists are not interested in the fact the word notable might be considered to contain the orthographic forms no and table because neither no nor table as a unit provides any meaning that can be found in notable. It is where form and meaning reflect each other directly, either because a certain formal sequence can be seen as being regularly correlated with a particular meaning (as in the examples above) or because there is a regular patterning of semantic relationships, and a particular form can be seen as filling a cell in the pattern. Thus, Worse is taken to be in the same relationship to bad that bigger is to big or frailer is to frail, not because of any regularity of form but because of the equivalence of the cells in the pattern or paradigm.

Since morphology is concerned with form, it is related to the study of phonology and since it is concerned with meaning, it is related to the study of semantics. It is also related to the study of syntax in that many of the meanings that find expression in morphology are related to syntactic function: for example, the comparative, past tense and present participles illustrated above. Morphology is also related to lexis in that morphological pat- terns can be used in the creation of new lexical items, as illustrated by manager and management above. This ‘cross-road’ nature of morphology means that it has been open to influence from phonological and syntactic theories, as well as to changing ideas about the nature of the lexicon. All this is reflected in morphological theorizing.

Morphology is often viewed in terms of the operations that apply to simpler units (like manage) to create more complex ones (like manager and managerial). This view of morphology is reflected in the articles in this encyclopedia on affixation, back- formation, neoclassical compounding, conversion, incorporation, internal modification, morph tactics, and reduplication. It can also be viewed through the notion of related sets of words like go, went, going, etc. This is reflected in the article on paradigm.

There are also various problems inherent in morphological study, which are discussed in the articles for inflection and derivation, lexicalization, morpheme, productivity, suppletion, and syncretism. Theoretical approaches to morphology are discussed in amorphous morphology, auto segmental phonology, declarative morphology, distributed morphology, lexeme-morpheme based morphology, lexical-phonology and morphology, onomasiological theory of word formation, optimality theory in morphology, paradigm function morphology, seamless morphology, sign-based morphology, syntax of words, and template morphology.

Other aspects of morphology are discussed in acquisition of morphological knowledge during the school years, critics, dictionaries and inflectional morphology, folk etymology, history of morphology, metathesis in morphology, morphology and language processing, morphology and word formation in corpus linguistics, morphology in pidgins and creoles, splinters, subtraction, and word.


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